All the students who received A-level and AS results last week deserve our congratulations for their commitment and effort. Students, teachers, school leaders and parents should also be recognised for their collective efforts throughout the year. Each plays a critical role in individual student success.
It must also be acknowledged that the educational landscape sitting behind these results has become increasingly challenging as each year passes.
In Wales, the financial pressures faced by schools and institutions, particularly those providing post-16 education, are extremely challenging.
We need a realistic long-term funding strategy that enables schools and colleges to best support their students year after year. I’ve been urging the Welsh government to work with school leaders to get us to that point.
Budget information and grant support has been inadequate, inequitable or left until the last minute. This does not help those of us working in the Welsh system to deliver the best for our children and young people.
School leaders are very concerned that we do not have a settled system. Radical reforms, which are set to continue for many years yet, mean that teachers have very little time to get to grips with new specifications.
The challenge for Welsh school leaders is to continue supporting colleagues in this work, while seeking to remain innovative in a curriculum design that reflects the ambition of the new national curriculum in Wales. It is the right thing to do, but remains a huge task for an already stretched profession.
Support and assurances needed
A recent announcement by Kirsty Williams, the cabinet secretary for education, to revisit the performance measures used to hold schools to account is extremely welcome. In my future discussions with her I will seek to support this work and to get some assurances that whatever new accountability system we have, schools and colleges will always be encouraged to do what is best for children and young people.
The most sensible approach now would be to recognise all of the challenges and provide stability for the next few years. School leaders and teachers can make things work if they are provided with the resources and time to embed changes properly.
Here are three simple things that would go a long way towards getting us to a more settled landscape:
- Ensure the timetable for curricular, assessment and qualification reform remains ambitious but realistic.
- Ensure that the resource and capacity within the system meet the level of change required.
- Maintain a clear focus on the needs of our children and young people and ensure nothing is put in place without clear plans and preparation.
It is better to invest time, effort and resources in doing fewer things exceptionally well rather than spreading efforts too thinly and diluting the impact of a wide range of welcome policy through poor implementation.
We owe it to our children and young people to ensure we provide them with the best foundations for future success.
Rob Williams is the Director of Policy at NAHT, Cymru.